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It's now official: 2014 was the warmest year in recorded history. According to two separate analyses by scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) and the National Ocean Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces in 2014 was the highest since 1880 when modern records started. And, with the exception of 1998, the 10 warmest years have all occurred since the beginning of the 21st century. Prior to 2014, the Earth's warmest years were 2005 and 2010. Since 1880, Earth’s average surface temperature has warmed by about 0.8 degrees Celsius — and the majority of that warming has occurred in the past three decades. This long-term warming trend is the direct result of human activity, says NASA. It is mainly being driven by an increase in carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere from human activity. “This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades. While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. But this doesn't mean that temperatures will keep increasing at a steady rate and that every new year will have record-breaking temperatures. There will be regional differences in temperature due to weather events such as El Nino and La Nina — natural weather phenomena that warms and cool the tropical Pacific. Year-to-year fluctuations will therefore still occur. “The globe is warmer now than it has been in the last 100 years and more likely in at least 5,000 years,” Jennifer Francis, a Rutgers University climate scientist, told Associated Press. “Any wisps of doubt that human activities are at fault are now gone with the wind,” she said.
"The findings are striking," Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA's acting administrator, said on a conference call to the Guardian. "Our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place." The findings were published in the 32nd edition of the American Meteorological Society's State of the Climate report, which was compiled with contributions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and from more than 380 scientists from 52 countries. According to the new report, 2012 saw record levels of greenhouse gas emissions with a global average of carbon dioxide, methane and other warming gasses reaching 392.7 parts per million. 2012 was also among the 10 warmest years on record - ranking eighth or ninth depending on dataset. As a result, and as the report shows, the Arctic has lost record amounts of sea ice, making life hard for animals such as polar bears and raising the Earth's average sea levels. The map shows ice concentration on September 16, along with the extent of the previous record low (yellow line) and the mid-September median extent (black line). The most dramatic changes in the climate can be found in the regions of Arctic and Greenland. In 2012, the Arctic warmed at about twice the rate of lower latitudes while both the snow and sea-ice cover had fallen to its lowest levels ever since the beginning of satellite records. At one point in 2012, Arctic sea ice had receded to 1.32 million square miles - about 18% lower than the previous record low of 1.61 million square miles back in 2007, and a shocking 54% lower than the levels in 1980. If the current rate continues, the NOAA has projected that the Arctic ocean could become ice-free by 2050. "The record or near-records being reported from year to year in the Arctic are no longer anomalies or exceptions," said Jackie Richter-Menge, a civil engineer with the US army corps of engineers. "Really they have become the rule for us, or the norm that we see in the Arctic and that we expect to see for the forseeable future." The graph shows monthly global sea level from 1993 through early 2013 compared to 1993-2012 average, based on AVISO data. Global sea levels are rising as a result of the dramatic melting of sea ice, the report says. "Over the past seven years of so, it appears that the ice melt is contributing more than twice as much to the global sea level rise compared with warming waters," said Jessica Blunden, a climatologist at NOAA's national climactic data centre. During 2012, global average sea levels rose to record highs of 1.4 inches, about 35.56 mm, above the 1993-2010 average.